Copa América
USMNT won't look past Bolivia in Copa América opener: 'This is a huge event for them'
Copa América

USMNT won't look past Bolivia in Copa América opener: 'This is a huge event for them'

Updated Jun. 23, 2024 5:59 p.m. ET

One quick glance at the Copa América odds tells the story.

Of the 16 teams competing at USA 2024, just three — Costa Rica, Jamaica and Panama — are more of a long shot to win the tournament than Bolivia, according to the bookies.

That should make the host U.S. men's national team feel pretty good about its chances of kicking off their Copa slate with a victory on Sunday over the Bolivians (kickoff at 6 p.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports app).

The Americans still aren't taking anything for granted.


"We know that this is a huge event for them," U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter said of Bolivia during Saturday's pregame press conference at AT&T Stadium. "Not always qualifying for the World Cup, I think increases the magnitude of Copa América for teams like Bolivia. So we know it's going to be a challenging match."

USMNT vs. Bolivia: Is this a MUST-WIN game for the United States? | Copa América Tonight

Somewhere in their subconscious, though, it would be easy for the U.S. to look past La Verde. FIFA ranks Bolivia 84th globally to the No. 11 Americans. They've made just one World Cup appearance since 1950. And they come into this Copa having won just one of their five matches this year; the other four were all losses. Still, the Bolivians have become a more sophisticated, more dangerous opponent since hugely experienced Brazilian manager Antonio Carlos Zago took the helm late last year.

"It's a different team than you might think on paper," U.S. goalkeeper Matt Turner told a handful of reporters in Dallas on Friday.  "They've kind of gone with a younger guard since their manager change back in [November]. They used to be a deeper-sitting team, just hoping for one or two chances. But now they seem to be trying to create more on their own, pressing a bit higher up the pitch, trying to build out from the back. They have a few talented players on the ball that, if they get the space to turn in the pockets and come at us, it could be trouble. They like to shoot from distance, put balls into the box. And not for nothing, but their region's difficult. They're going up against really, really good teams all the time."

That's why Berhalter hasn't even started preparing his squad for its second and third Group C matches, per USMNT midfielder Yunus Musah. After Bolivia, the U.S. heads to Atlanta to face Concacaf foe Panama, then closes out the first round with a hotly anticipated test against star-studded Uruguay, the oddsmakers' title favorite following World Cup champion Argentina and record five-time winner Brazil.

"Right now, our focus is Bolivia," Musah said. "We're just really focused on that one."

[USMNT lineup predictions: Who should Gregg Berhalter start at Copa América?]

The U.S. knows it must bring the intensity from the get-go on Sunday — something that might not be easy in a stadium that could be half-full at best. A source told FOX Sports on Friday that just 30,000 tickets had been sold for the match at "Jerry World." The sparkling home of the NFL's Dallas Cowboys seats up to 100,000 fans.

The good news for the Americans is that the temporary grass field at the venue shouldn't be as sluggish as it was back in March, when the U.S. started slow and were lucky not to lose to Jamaica in the Concacaf Nations League semifinals.

"This field appears to be much better," Berhalter said. "The grass itself looked really good. We're pleasantly surprised with the playing surface."

And the U.S. should be healthier than it was during its two pre-Copa friendly games, an embarrassing 5-1 loss to Colombia that was followed by an impressive rebound versus Brazil, which they tied 1-1. Midfielder Tyler Adams, still recovering from hamstring and back ailments that have limited him to only three U.S. appearances since he captained his country at the 2022 World Cup, was only able to make a brief cameo off the bench against the Brazilians. Forward Josh Sargent (foot injury) didn't feature in either tuneup. Berhalter said that both will be available on Sunday, at least in some capacity.

"Tyler has been sharp" in training," defender Chris Richards said on Saturday. "You wouldn't have known that he hadn't played many games this season."

All of that sets up well for the U.S.

"We're fully prepared," defender Tim Ream said. "You want to start a tournament in a good way. You want to get a good result to set you up for the rest of the group games, and beyond."

Doug McIntyre is a soccer writer for FOX Sports. Before joining FOX Sports in 2021, he was a staff writer with ESPN and Yahoo Sports and he has covered the United States men's and women's national teams at multiple FIFA World Cups. Follow him at @ByDougMcIntyre.

FOLLOW Follow your favorites to personalize your FOX Sports experience
United States
Copa América

Get more from Copa América Follow your favorites to get information about games, news and more